So tired, yet so awake

It hasn’t been the best of days. I’m trying to get home, taking a flight from Roanoke to Charlotte to Minneapolis, when I get an alert: my flight out has been cancelled, along with all the other flights out of Roanoke that evening. The clever computers at American Airlines have obligingly booked me on the next available flight, which is two days later.

That’s not going to work for me.

There is a mad scramble for a flight agent (hint: they dread these situations, I’m sure. Being nice will get you more help than raging at them.) We work out a slightly better solution: rebook a Charlotte to Minneapolis flight, scrap any attempt to fly out of Roanoke, it’s buggered, and rent a car to make the three hour drive to Charlotte. I get the cheapest nearby motel I can find, because I’m already hit with unexpected expenses, and I figure I’ll get a good night’s rest before braving unfamiliar roads.

So. My room is horrible. Everything is booked everywhere, so all I can get is a smoking room, which reeks of death, ashes, and despair. The furniture is speckled with cigarette burns. The WiFi doesn’t work. I’m just going to sleep here, then escape. Which I do, sorta.

I am awakened at 4am by an ungodly industrial racket. Garbage trucks have arrived and are hate-banging dumpsters outside my window. No one can sleep through this, but thankfully it ends after 10 minutes of sonic chaos. I put a pillow over my head and resolve to get a few hours of sleep.

Then, my head pressed against the mattress, I hear…something scurrying and scratching in the box spring.

I tell you what, nothing will get you to leap out of bed faster in the morning. Which is why I am now sitting in a rental car bracing myself to flee Roanoke, Virginia for an airport in North Carolina, 18 hours before my flight is scheduled. Send coffee.


  1. blf says

    The café will also be delayed, so presumably will be very cold if it happens to find you. The mildly deranged penguin suggests it’d be easier to build a FTL starship and go to one of the many planets where café — and cheese — are a local specialty. Some are even said to have neat spiders, albeit the alien varieties frequently aren’t eight-legged. (The cheese, that is. The spiders usually fly, diving-bombing stationary targets, like café-drinkers.)

  2. johnson catman says

    If you are headed for Charlotte and you get to South Carolina, you have gone too far. Charlotte is in NC.

  3. says

    I made it to Pulaski for coffee. It’s making me feel better to soak in the accents and get called “hon”, “sweetie”, “darlin'”, and “sweetheart” by the waitresses.

  4. Sean Boyd says

    Like the fella once said, PZ, I feel your pain. Had to make a solo overnight trip to Albany, Oregon, and only had dough for a 2-star place to sleep. It was over-rated. One thing I did discover, though, is that this old guy with short, dark but graying, curly hair must, in fact, be growing long, luscious blond locks somewhere on his body. How else could I have found such in the shower?

  5. ridana says

    Bah, if there were no cockroaches, bedbugs, or geckos on the wall (maybe it was in the bed) (maybe it was a palmetto bug), it was fine. Garbage trucks are a part of nature, like dung beetles, only louder.

    Why did they cancel all the flights? Was it just American? They couldn’t book you on another airline? You should be able to claim a voucher for reimbursement and your trouble. Check up on that while you have time to kill.

  6. microraptor says

    ridana @8: The vouchers airlines like to give out are practically worthless. They’re supposed to offer a cash refund. Make sure you get that instead.

  7. says

    Between weather, AA mechanics’ issues with contract talks, and the 737Max grounding a lot of people are spending a lot of time hanging out in airports this spring and summer. Yeah, be sure to get a cash refund.

  8. garnetstar says

    PZ, so sorry to hear this! In my experience though, coffee won’t be enough: what you need is gin. Lots of it.

    However, Charlotte airport is very nice, although very large: they have many people-movers to get you from place to place, so you don’t have to walk the many miles it is from gate to gate. And, in the central hub, they have lots of nice white rocking chairs, where you can sit and sleep.

    Best of luck.

  9. robro says

    This is why I don’t want to travel by air. My last trip (from SF to Albuquerque and back) was delayed both ways by hours. My boss’s recent return flight from Austin was delayed 4 hours…and that was just the beginning. Another work colleague flew to Japan last year and his return flight was delayed 12 hours. He spent 4 hours sitting in the plane on the runway while experiencing a painful health problem.

    The airline industry is an egregious monopoly…how else do you travel a country of this size without decent rail service. Clearly Reagan’s de-regulation did not improve the industry.

    It’s making me feel better to soak in the accents and get called “hon”, “sweetie”, “darlin’”, and “sweetheart” by the waitresses.

    That’s called Southern hospitality, and that’s about as far as it goes. Just be careful if anyone asks you if you’re “churched”, or how much you love Trump. If they do, say something like “He really tells it like it is” and keep the “not” part to yourself.

  10. pilgham says

    I kept humming “Promised Land” all day yesterday for no reason. Now I feel guilty that I may have jinxed you. I hope you are being met at the airport, otherwise, what are grad students there for?

  11. redwood says

    Here’s my hotel-from-hell experience–complete with spiders! I was somewhere in northern Honshu driving to Hokkaido when I stopped at a business hotel. I went into the room they gave me (the last one available, they said) and while I was unloading my bags, I saw a spider fall onto the bed. Odd, I thought, and looked up at the ceiling. There were at least fifty spiders there, maybe a hundred. I went to the front desk to tell them about this and they handed me a can of insecticide and wished me luck. Yeah, right, I could see how swell it would be sleeping in a room full of dead spiders and smelling of insecticide. I got my bags and went off hunting a new place to stay.

  12. Reginald Selkirk says

    Roanoke to Charlotte – presumably you will be driving I77. That means you can add getting backed up in traffic to the list.

  13. says

    As far as internet service goes, I use my cell phone as a hot spot now. It is usually adequate, especially since I remember dialup access.

  14. says

    OK, I have made it to the Charlotte airport. 77 was a pain, but I’ve got so much time to kill — I’ve got 9 more hours until boarding.

    I did get a cash reimbursement for that one leg of my trip.

    You know how I said it pays to be nice to the desk agent? They had two dealing with the lines of people. At the same time I got up there, a guy with slicked-back hair, manicured nails, and a business suit marched up to his agent; mine got me, casually dressed biologist, slouching up. He yelled at her. He kept insisting that she DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS WEATHER CANCELLATION. He refused to accept any alternative she suggested, and eventually ordered her to go find her manager, who presumably has weather control powers. She was nearly in tears as she went off on a futile quest.

    Meanwhile, my agent suggested a couple of alternatives, I picked the one that was least painful, she rebooked my Minneapolis flight, and I went off to the car rental desk while Mr Slick was seething and drumming his figures and growling.

    Now that I’m here in Charlotte, I discover that my agent had bumped me up to first class! Yay!

  15. mattandrews says

    Geez, that nearly mirrors our recent horror story try to take the red eye from Vegas to Philly. Weather in the Midwest bascially grounds like 30% of domestic air travel. We managed to get a flight to Newark and had to rent a car to get home.

    It sucked having to spend 10 hours in McCarrin with nowhere to sleep, but our alternative was wait two days as well.

    As someone alluded above, I hate air travel. Not because I’m afraid the plane will go down; it’s because it seems to bring out the worst in people. Also, that industry needs to be re-regulated.

    Also going to reinforce what PZ said: when dealing with customer service people, whether it’s a flight agent or someone on the phone, BE NICE. Whenever I have an issue that needs to be dealt with, I always start off with “Look, I know this issue isn’t your fault.”

    Never gotten me bumped to first class, but I feel better knowing I’m not being a shit to someone who’s not responsible for the problem.

  16. jrkrideau says

    Well even a hellish trip like that could have been even worse. There is place called Sydney NSW in Austria. There also is a place called Sydney NS in Canada. The first one has the bridge, the Opera House and so on. The second is an old coal mining town and has tar pits.

    Every 2 or 3 years someone ends up in NS rather than NSW. Now that is a really bad rerouting.

  17. cvoinescu says


    There is place called Sydney NSW in Austria.

    That would be really bad rerouting too. (Although they do have impressive bridges and opera houses in Austria, too.)

  18. says

    I suspect I might have been bumped because I was such a contrast to the asshole next door. I’m sure the agent was far more sympathetic to the guy who didn’t send her partner away shaking and tearing up.

  19. jrkrideau says

    @ 23 cvoinescu
    I feel like I am the butt of Putin’s famous line “It is difficult to do business with someone who does not know the difference between Austria and Australia”.

    Vienna is in Canada, is it not? Ah yes there it is.

  20. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    One of my philosophies of travel:
    All of your good experiences become memories; all of your bad experiences become stories. Sometimes they are one and the same.

  21. blf says

    Vienna is in Canada, is it not?

    Yes: Vienna, Ontario, population slightly less than 500 (moose, I presume). Probably doesn’t have an international aeroport. Hence all the people being misdirected to Austria. Or worse, Ozland.

  22. jrkrideau says

    @ 30 blf
    moose, I presume

    No, no. Too far south. You would have to go to Ottawa for moose. Deer and/or foxes. Both? I am pretty sure they do not have bears.

    Given the stealing of names in Canada I once tried to count how many capitals of countries I could visit in one day in Ontario. I had not realized we had Vienna. It will make a nice addition to the list.

    I made it to Moscow on a one-day bicycle tour with some friends and I have been through Paris by train more times than I can remember. It is smaller than the one in France.

  23. blf says

    …less than 500 (moose, I presume)
    No, no…

    Zero moose is less than 500 moose. Perhaps more likely, this is the secret training base for the Canadian Army’s attack moose. (All one of them, when the army can find where they’ve mislaid it.)

  24. davidc1 says

    Seems like your trip is shaping up to be a bit of a nightmare ,stay clear of shower rings salesmen .

  25. Sean Boyd says

    petesh @33,

    Elon would have found an underwater route from VA all the way back to MN, designed a submarine specifically for PZ to make the trip, then called him disgusting names when PZ declared the idea unfeasible.

  26. unclefrogy says

    for all the trouble and delays it seem to be taking besides the expense it might have been quicker and easier to just drive a rental or a one way delivery , I doubt it would have been more tiring, but I have been known to drive long distances for less reason in the past. I think the next time I have a long trip to take I might try the train because flying these days seems little better than the bus was back in the day.
    uncle frogy

  27. Ray, rude-ass yankee - One inseparable gemisch says

    Well Damn, I wish I’d known! I live 5 min from the Roanoke airport, could have put you up for free on a semi-comfortable air mattress in one of the semi-empty bedrooms in my non-smoking (on pain of death) house. Hell, since my oldest son lives in Charlotte, I could probably drive it in my sleep.
    blf @ 30 A moose bit my sister once.

  28. blf says

    non-smoking (on pain of death)

    Is that before or after they’re nibbled by the moose?

  29. jrkrideau says

    @ 32 blf
    Perhaps more likely, this is the secret training base for the Canadian Army’s attack moose. (All one of them, when the army can find where they’ve mislaid it.)

    No, people would notice a moose down there. The base is at Dwyer’s Hill. RCMP Training Centre so no-one would notice the gun-fire, and if a moose was sighted people would just say, “Smart moose, I would not stay in Ottawa either”. BTW, I thought we had two. Those dastardly RCMP trainees must have eaten the other one.

    Now on the other hand Vienna as a secret training centre for attack raccoons conscripted in Toronto is perfectly plausible though attack raccoons probably violate the Geneva Convention.

  30. jrkrideau says

    @ 35 chigau
    I wonder if PZ made it home?
    Last heard of trying to make a connection in Albuquerque.
    Does anyone remember the Tom Lehrer song “The Man on the MTA”?

  31. Ray, rude-ass yankee - One inseparable gemisch says

    “Non-smoking on pain of moose nibbling” just doesn’t have the same… emphasis. But on the other hand, those responsible for sacking those responsible, have been sacked.

  32. unclefrogy says

    @41 no but I do remember this one by The Kingston Trio “M.T.A.”

    says the composers are Steiner & Simmons
    an old favorite of mine
    uncle frogy

  33. Ray, rude-ass yankee - One inseparable gemisch says

    But does it have Ralph the wonder llama?

    I’ll try to stop now.

  34. jrkrideau says

    @ 44 unclefrogy
    Hey I was pretty close. Tom Lehrer is a musican.

    I am one of the handful of people who really do not like most music. From an article I read a few years ago, I suspect I am partially tone deaf.

    Most music I endure today really sounds like screaming with some kind of random noise generator in the background. Jazz, especially modern jazz causes physical distress and I flee if at all possible.

    I lasted 3 lessons with my piano teacher when I was 5 or 6. She remembered me as one of her students 15 years later. Possibly an early case of PTSD?

  35. raven says

    Elon would have found an underwater route from VA all the way back to MN, designed a submarine specifically for PZ to make the trip,

    That would actually be easy of not very fast. Roanoke isn’t too far from Chesapeake bay.
    Head up the Atlantic to the St. Lawrence river.
    Go through the Great Lakes.
    Minnesota has a port on Lake Superior, Duluth.

    It gets harder from there.
    You would have to dig a canal from Duluth across the state to Morris.
    This is feasible because Minnesota is basically flat and there isn’t too much elevation gain.

  36. unclefrogy says

    I do not know what I would do if music was removed from my life. I like many kinds not quite all kinds, but almost
    even avant-garde jazz and modern electronic music the list would be too long to go into here sorry
    uncle frogy

  37. John Morales says

    Hm, I wonder how PZ’s adventuring proceeds.

    Will he be home soon? Has he had gastric distress due to unfit food?

    (Stay tuned!)

    Gotta say, does he not post within 36 hours, I shall begin to worry for him.

  38. blf says

    Last heard of trying to make a connection in Albuquerque.

    Albuquerque (the one in New Mexico, not to be confused with Alburquerque, Badajoz (Spain)), does seem a bit too far south for moose, even Canada’s attack moose. Llamas, however, are quite possible. Therefore, poopyhead is obviously, in addition to spidering, trying to not be nibbled on by llamas. And perhaps trying to round up the stars for his new movie, Revenge of Octospiderllama !

  39. jrkrideau says

    @ 48 unclefrogy
    I do not know what I would do if music was removed from my life.

    Almost every one I know feels this way. If (most) music was removed from my life I would feel profound relief. As I said there are not many of us rather strange people around.

    I do rather like the bagpipes

  40. jrkrideau says

    Albuquerque New Mexico, Albuquerque Spain. Could be either I suppose but the Spanish one looks too small for an international airport. Still, if it was Spain, think of the collecting opportunity, PZ could bring back a completely new invasive species!

  41. John Morales says

    [weird digression]

    I do not know what I would do if music was removed from my life.

    Almost every one I know feels this way.

    Hm. Wasn’t Ludwig Van famously deaf as he composed?

    If music is just noise that pleases or is rhythmic or patterned, it’s always available if one can hear. If it’s the mind-patterns of music, then it’s always there.

    As for me, meh. I can take it or leave it. I’d just carry on.

  42. blf says

    Albuquerque New Mexico, Albuquerque Spain.

    Actually, it’s Alburquerque Spain (there’s apparently also one in the Philippines), which is an important point to note when searching for llamas — rather than how to llamar a moose… (albeit all three Albuquerque / Alburquerque could advise on how to llamar many things, presumably including booth moose and lamas).

    Poopyhead, I note, has returned, albeit no mention of either Albuquerque or Alburquerque, or indeed of lamas, moose, or sacking anyone else other than much of American Airlines and States-style capitalism.

  43. blf says

    Octospiderllama’s also have the number after seven legs, and the number before nine arms, and the same number of eyes. Clearly has an intense aurora of Octarine.

  44. cherbear says

    #22 @jkrideau
    Hey! I resemble that remark! I live near Sydney! And… well, you’re mostly right. But we have … um… well.. ok you’re right.